Javid Husain The nation was taken aback by the recent call by MQM chief Altaf Hussain for action including martial law by patriotic generals against corrupt politicians and feudal landlords. This open call for unconstitutional steps by the leader of a political party defies logic and betrays a serious lack of understanding of Pakistans history and politics. The democratic process in the country has been derailed several times in the past by ambitious generals who in each and every case ended up by doing more harm than good to the country. They not only undermined the sanctity of the constitution but also weakened the various institutions of state including the legislature, the judiciary and the executive by making them subservient to their self-serving whims rather than being responsive to the wishes of the people at large. They promoted a personalised style of government to protect their own vested interests and those of their supporters from among the armed forces and corrupt and unscrupulous politicians. In the process, they eroded the rule of law which is the main distinguishing feature between a civilized society and an uncivilized one in which the law of the jungle prevails, allowing the strong to exploit the weak and usurp their political and economic rights. Considering that the long-term stability of a country depends upon the strength of its institutions, these generals thus badly destabilised the country. They also prevented the democratic process from taking root in the country, encouraged the economic exploitation of the poor, widened the inequalities of wealth and income, and led the nation into national disasters and tragedies like the 1971 break-up of the country, the loss of Siachen and the disastrous misadventure of Kargil. Even the current wave of extremism and the threat posed to the countrys very survival by the Taliban can be traced to the rule by the army generals and their manipulation of the governments policies when they were not directly ruling the country. Considering the past record of the military rule in the country, only a novice in politics can call for martial law or martial law type actions, whatever that means, to deal with the countrys problems. Obviously Altaf Hussain does not fall in this category. So why has he openly encouraged the army generals to violate the constitution? The justification given by some of his supporters that the country is more important than the constitution is not convincing in the light of the nations experience of the past martial laws. This is the typical explanation that the army generals like Ayub Khan, Yahaya Khan, Zia-ul-Haq and Musharraf gave while overthrowing civilian governments and imposing military rule. In each case, the country suffered at the hands of these usurpers. As for action against corrupt politicians or feudal landlords, the army generals have ruled this country directly for more than half of its history. Even when they were not directly in command of the nations affairs, they kept a tight control over the countrys internal and external policies. So they are as much to blame for the epidemic of corruption from which the country is currently suffering as anybody else. After all the army generals under the leadership of General Musharraf were ruling this country from 1999 till as late as the beginning of 2008. What prevented them from eradicating corruption or taking action against feudal landlords at that time? In fact, Musharrafs cronies at the federal and provincial levels included perhaps the most corrupt and the most unscrupulous politicians, feudal landlords and generals. The stories of their corruption have not yet been forgotten by the people of Pakistan. So what makes Altaf Hussain think that the so-called patriotic generals (as if there are unpatriotic generals also) at his invitation would be able to eradicate corruption and feudalism in the country? The reality is that MQM was one of the main supporters and beneficiaries of Musharrafs dictatorial and corrupt rule. It exploited that link to strengthen its iron grip on Karachi besides benefiting economically and financially from it. It has been quite happy to cosy up to corrupt politicians and feudal landlords by joining various governments, both military and civilian, at the federal and provincial levels during the past two decades. So the explanation for the call for martial law by Altaf Hussain must be found somewhere else. It is actually a cold-blooded move by him and his party to exploit the current widespread discontent against the PPP-led government with a view to getting the desired concessions out of it especially in the context of the situation in Karachi. It is also timed to put MQM in a comfortable position in case the army does decide to move in and take charge of the nations affairs. Fortunately for the country and unluckily for Altaf Hussain, the current leadership of the army under the command of General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani consists of dedicated and professional soldiers who do not show any sign of obliging MQM. There cant be any difference of opinion on the need for eliminating the curse of corruption and doing away with feudalism from which the country has suffered for too long. But by inviting army generals to impose martial law or to take martial law type actions against corrupt politicians and feudal landlords, one cannot realistically hope that the country would be rid of these evils any time soon. Neither Pakistans history nor the performance of the army generals in the past leaves any hope for miraculous results through their intervention in the countrys democratic process. In any case, the army generals do not have in their hands a magic wand which they can wave to make corruption disappear. Corruption in our government and society will be minimised not by strengthening the army at the cost of other institutions of state but by reversing this trend which has debilitated the various state institutions in the past. It will be minimised by strengthening and building up state institutions like judiciary and police on sound lines with a view to establishing the rule of law. It will be minimised by allowing the media to expose the cases of graft and inefficiency in the working of the government machinery and to discourage elitism in our society. It will be checked if there is a robust opposition in the legislature and outside to criticise and evaluate the performance of the executive. It will diminish if there is a system of checks and balances in our government rather than by allowing any single institution of the state to overwhelm others. In short, we need to stren-gthen democratic institutions and practices to weed out corruption in our midst. Inviting the army generals to do this job will produce precisely the opposite results. The writer is a retired ambassador. Email: javid.husain@gmail.com